East Prairie, MO man meets hero who saved his life 45 years ago

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)

EAST PRAIRIE, MO (KFVS) - It was a reunion, 45 years in the making.

Billy Miller got his wish. He finally got to meet Fay Fincher, the mystery woman from his past.

The year was 1971. Fay Fincher had so much going on in her life.

"It was such a tough year, my husband was in Vietnam and my mother was dying of cancer," said Fincher.

To add to it, her young son, Jimmy, was in the hospital in Sikeston with pneumonia.

Jimmy had met a friend, two-year-old Billy, who was also in the hospital with pneumonia.

"They usually got out of their tent for an hour a day or 30 minutes," said Fincher. "We'd go by and see if Billy could come play with Jimmy."

In those days, hospitals commonly used oxygen tents for patients with respiratory problems.

On that October day in 1971, Billy was alone in his room playing with his favorite toy under his tented bed filled with oxygen.

Little did he know, that toy metal bulldozer nearly cost him his life.

As he ran it back and forth on the bed, sparks flew.

At that very moment, Fay Fincher was walking with her son by Billy's room.

"I just gave a quick glance and I thought at first he was laying down, but I saw a flicker like a reflection."

Instinct kicked in.

"I left Jimmy in the hallway and went and grabbed Billy and by the time I got to the doorway the whole bed was engulfed," said Fincher.

In moments, the room was up in flames.

"It was just that close, that close," said Fincher. "For that to not go up in our faces when I pulled that tent back, it was beyond me and him."

Billy Miller grew up knowing very little about what happened that day - all he had was a local newspaper article.

One day he made up his mind: he wouldn't rest until he found Fay.

"I looked, [saw] the name on there, I said, 'I wonder if she's on Facebook'," said Billy Miller.

"I found one and said, 'that's her...that's her'," said Miller.

Elated and nervous, Billy reached out.

He got a response, and more than four decades later he finally got to thank his hero.

"Without her, I wouldn't have my daughter - [I] would not have that little man right there [his son] - we wouldn't exist," said Miller.

It was an emotional day for everyone.

"She saved my life," said Billy, with tears in his eyes.

Fay said she never forgot about that little boy she rescued years ago.

"I carried him around in my heart for many years," said Fincher.

Now that they've met, there are many more gatherings and barbecues planned for the future.

"The family just got bigger," said Miller.

Remember that bulldozer toy that got Billy into all this mess in the beginning? Well, he now drives one for a living.

"Playing with bigger toys now, playing in the dirt. Bigger toy, more dirt," said Billy with a laugh.

They have so much catching up to do - and Billy now has the rest of his life to let Fay know just how much she's appreciated.

"Thank you," said Miller. "You're welcome," said Fincher. "I'm so glad I was there, so glad I was there."

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